Individuals with a family history of alcohol problems are at increased risk for developing alcohol problems, but the specific mechanisms by which alcohol behaviors are transmitted from one generation to the next are not well understood. The purpose of the proposed study is to investigate the development of alcohol involvement (i.e. alcohol use and problems) and its intergenerational transmission among participants in the Joint Child Health Project, an ongoing three-generational longitudinal study on the island of Mauritius. In 1972, a general sample cohort of 1,795 male and female 3 year-olds were tested on psycho-physiological, nutritional, cognitive, and temperamental factors, while their first-generation parents were assessed on psychosocial variables. This second generation is now 40 years old and along with their spouses will be assessed on measures of lifetime alcohol involvement and associated genetic, personality, cultural, familial, parenting, and psychosocial measures. The third-generation offspring also have been well characterized on psycho-physiological, nutritional, cognitive, and temperamental factors between the ages of 3 and 11 years. The third-generation offspring who are 12 years of age or older will now be assessed for early alcohol involvement and associated variables, including genetic, familial, peer, cultural, and social influences, personality and individual differences, and psychosocial, cognitive, and behavioral variables. The multigenerational dataset and unique setting of the JCHP will enable us to tease apart the complex interplay of risk and protective factors in ways that cannot be done in U.S. samples where alcohol use is nearly universal. Findings will also test the degree to which pathway models of the development of alcohol problems generalize to a non-Western culture. The three specific aims of the proposed study are: 1) to create a rich dataset for testing mechanisms of alcohol involvement over three generations, 2) to test hypothesized mechanisms for the early initiation of alcohol use in G3 offspring, and 3) to test mechanisms for the progression from initiation to hazardous drinking in G3 offspring. This multigenerational prospective study has sufficient power and comprehensive assessments of childhood precursors and alcohol involvement to disentangle the complex interactive effects of individual differences, psychosocial, biological, cultural, and genetic risk and protective factors on alcohol involvement. Knowledge of such processes will inform future prevention and harm reduction research and efforts.

Public Health Relevance

This study offers a unique opportunity to better understand how biological, cultural, familial, and psychosocial risk and protective factors influence the continuity and change of alcohol involvement across generations. This new knowledge could contribute to more effective prevention programs for reducing alcohol problems and disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Project (R01)
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Risk, Prevention and Intervention for Addictions Study Section (RPIA)
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Witt, Ellen
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University of Southern California
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Los Angeles
United States
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